Policy paper 257

Building a clean mobility system in times of COVID-19

By Emilie Magdalinski, research fellow, Marie Delair, research assistant & Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director, from the Jacques Delors Energy Centre, Paris.

The COVID-19 crisis heavily impacts our economy. As the pandemic is likely to continue affecting our daily lives until at least 2021, EU policy makers need to better assess the potential consequences of the current crisis. As the crisis disrupted how much we move and the way we move, the mobility system and the whole transport-related economy have been particularly hit.

This paper takes stock of the immediate impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on our mobility and the first response provided by public authorities to support the economy, workers and citizens in this extraordinary situation. It reflects on the possible effects of a longer sanitary and economic crisis, in particular the potential longer term implications of the crisis for the transport sector.

Our current mobility system remains still very much the result of 20th century choices: growing demand for speed and long distance travel, cities built around large streets for individual cars, urban sprawl, increasing congestion, life-threatening levels of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions making a scenario of catastrophic climate change probable. The COVID-19 outbreak already triggered important changes in businesses, infrastructure, practices and behaviours, which can be geared towards making our mobility system more resilient to crises, fairer for all citizens and fit for the green transition.

We therefore explore policies that can help build a clean mobility system in Europe in the wake of the health crisis. With their economic recovery plans, the EU and its Member States should push for massive investments in clean mobility while the EU should align its State Aids rules with the European Green Deal and provide stronger signals for States, municipalities and companies to become greener. ▪▪▪

The authors would like to thank Sébastien Maillard for his valuable comments.